MIND FOR MEDIA
Thinking outside the square
ASPIRING journalists are being encouraged to seek career options outside the mainstream media, as an increasing number of graduates compete for fewer jobs.
Australian media and marketing website Mumbrella reported no more than 40 jobs for journalists were advertised around the country in April, and speculated that very few journalism students graduating this year will ever find work as journalists.
Despite the gloomy outlook, journalism enrolments are steadily increasing, with Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations figures showing there were 4288 students enrolled in journalism in 2008, compared with 3013 in 2001.
The department reports enrolments in journalism have increased by 42 per cent, compared with an increase in overall enrolments in higher education courses of 27 per cent. The head of UniSA’s School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, Kerry Green, says the university limits its intake of journalism students to 80 a year.
‘‘(Journalism enrolments) would have kept increasing if we let them but we have to be responsible about it. We can’t flood the market with a whole heap of graduates,’’ Prof Green says.
He says students are actively encouraged to look at jobs other than at metropolitan newspapers and television stations, which are largely out of the reach of graduates.
Three separate studies, including one co-authored by Professor Green, conducted in the past 15 years all found less than a third of new graduates will be picked up by the mainstream media.
Up to 40 per cent are employed by non-traditional media outlets, including public relations and those involving newer forms of technology such as social media and blogging.
The remainder go into non-media professions, Prof Green says.
‘‘Of course (journalism students) are all going into it thinking they’re going to work for a metropolitan paper or a TV station, but then they discover that’s not going to be the case,’’ he says.
‘‘A lot of them get jobs at suburban newspapers, a lot of them get jobs at their home newspaper at the home towns they have grown up in and then they go on from there.’’
Prof Green says online publications are a relatively new employer for graduates and often provide greater scope by not constraining them with newspaper word-counts or television and radio time limits.
‘‘You can take more advantage of this unlimited amount of space that there is in the blogosphere and on the web and write longer forms of stories,’’ he says.
‘‘Writing and maintaining your own blog and having your own voice gives you an opportunity to influence our world. There’s a lot of altruistic people out there who say one way to have my say is to become a journalist and propagate the fourth estate notion of journalism.’’
Second-year journalism student Emma Offler, 24, has a current affairs blog, the Irregular Blogger, which she hopes will give her a foot in the door to paid blogging in the future.
‘‘That’s the path I’m going down, but it is a lot harder in Australia to become a professional blogger. In the US, (bloggers) get paid to do reviews, they get sent things (to review), they go to conferences all over the country,’’ Ms Offler says.
‘‘I’m trying to break into that, but it requires a lot of time to get your name out there and find someone who is willing to sponsor you or put some money into you.’’
Ms Offler says she enjoys the extra freedom blogging provides compared with other forms of journalism.
‘‘You can write anything you want, she says. ‘‘You can do whatever you want and there’s no one editing or censoring you.’’
Fellow student Channelle Leslie, 19, writes the NotSoNaked blog and has been paid to post her views on fashion website 2threads.com.
‘‘It (blogging) is definitely a career move,’’ Ms Leslie says.
‘‘It’s part of my career development.
‘‘It helps me develop my own skills and put my name out there.’’
UniSA journalism students Emma Offler, top, and Channelle Leslie with their blogs.